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Monday, March 29, 2010

Why Positive Thinking Is Bad for You

By Srikumar Rao
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The "power of positive thinking" is so firmly enshrined in our culture that knocking it is a little like attacking motherhood or apple pie. Many people swear by positive thinking, and quite a few have been helped by it. Nevertheless, it is not a very effective success tool -- and it can be downright deleterious. There are much better ways to get the benefits that positive thinking allegedly provides.
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Perhaps the statement that best exemplifies positive thinking is "When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade." It seems so obvious that this is good advice that we never question the wisdom of the adage. But it does not take a whole lot of digging to unearth the flaws in this reasoning.
For one thing, did life really hand you a lemon -- or was that merely your initial, unthinking reaction upon finding yourself in a difficult situation? And is being handed a lemon really a bad thing?
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No matter what happens to us in life, we tend to think of it as "good" or "bad." And most of us tend to use the "bad" label three to 10 times as often as the "good" label. When we label something as "bad," we greatly increase the odds that we will experience it as such. And that is when we assume that we need to apply positive thinking. We have been given a lemon, and we had better scramble to salvage something out of the situation by making some lemonade out of it.
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How tiresome and tiring!
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Think back on your life. Can you recall instances when something that you initially thought was a bad thing turned out to be not so bad after all -- perhaps even spectacularly good?
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Maybe, for example, you missed the early-morning train that you always take to get to work on time, and you had to wait a whole hour for the next one. But in that hour, you struck up a conversation with someone else who had missed that train... and a beautiful friendship developed. Or maybe you didn't get a job that you desperately wanted. But then you were unexpectedly offered a much better job -- which you would not have been able to accept had it not been for the earlier rejection.
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And consider the story of Olympic champion Michael Phelps. He broke his wrist after slipping on some ice. He was in the middle of intense training for the Beijing games, and thought his career as a swimmer was over. But his coach wouldn't let him quit. And though he couldn't swim for a few weeks, he kept training just by kicking his legs.
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Phelps did make it to the Olympics, and he won the 100-meter butterfly by one of the closest margins in athletic history -- 1/10th of a second. Turns out the weeks of kicking had given him leg strength he'd never had before. While his opponent had to stop kicking and glide at the end of the race, Phelps was able to keep going and win.
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Now, let me propose something radical and revolutionary: No matter what happens to you -- no matter how terrible it may seem -- you do not stick a "bad" label on it. You are fired from your job... your mortgage lender sends you a foreclosure notice... your spouse files for divorce... or whatever. Is it possible, just possible, that the reason you experience such things as personal tragedies is because you have been conditioned to think of them that way?
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In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl tells about a beautiful girl from a privileged background who was grateful to be in a concentration camp because it allowed her to connect with a spiritual side of herself that she never knew existed. Observations like this led Frankl into his life's work of trying to determine why, when faced with extreme adversity, some people flourish while others disintegrate.
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Many who rise triumphantly never label what they go through as "bad" and, thus, don't agonize over it. They simply take it as a given -- like an engineer surveying a swamp through which a road is to be built. From his perspective, the swamp is not a bad thing. It is merely something that has to be addressed in his construction plan.
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If you never label a situation as "bad," you won't experience it that way. You won't need positive thinking to get yourself through it. And all of the stress associated with figuring out how to make lemonade out of your lemon simply goes away.
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That's a lot different than saying to yourself: "This is bad. Really bad. But somehow I will make some lemonade out of this lemon -- and then perhaps it won't be so bad." What you're doing, here, is falling victim to the huge pebble in the positive-thinking shoe. First you think your situation is bad. Then you think you will somehow make it less bad. Meanwhile, you can't help but wonder if you're just kidding yourself. And if you don't manage to make lemonade out of your lemon, you're devastated -- because the success tool you were conditioned to believe in caved in on you. That's why I say that, in some cases, positive thinking can be harmful.
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Can you actually go through life without labeling what happens to you as "good" or "bad"? Sure you can. But you have to train yourself not to do it. You have been conditioned to think of what happens to you as being either bad or good. And you can de-condition yourself. It is neither easy nor fast, but it is possible.
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Let's say you break your leg. Yes, there is some unpleasant stuff you have to do -- like having a doctor set the broken bone and going to therapy when the cast comes off. But the real unpleasantness in this situation is what you inflict on yourself: "Why did this have to happen to me? Bad things always come my way. I am in such pain." All of that is simply baggage. You don't have to pick up this load -- and the only reason you do is because you were never told that you don't have to.
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I am telling you now. Don't pick up that useless burden. Don't label what happens to you as "bad." Then you won't need positive thinking -- and much of the stress in your life will simply disappear. Poof! Just like that.
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[Dr. Srikumar Rao is the author of the new book Happiness at Work -- Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful, No Matter What. Visit www.srikumarsrao.com to read more of his articles and to buy the book. You can also follow Dr. Rao on Twitter: @srikumarsrao.]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spoon Bending


This is the second time I am bending spoons. The first time was five years ago. Then, I used a thinner spoon and thus was not so convinced if it was brute force or mind-over-matter. This time, I chose a thicker spoon.
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The procedure is such:
  1. Hold the spoon one hand on each end.
  2. Focus and feel the spoon 'softening'.
  3. The moment you feel that, quickly apply some force.
  4. When it starts to bend, you just have to lightly push to bend it totally.

That means, it should be: Focus-Feel-Force-LightPush. If it is: Force-Force-Force-Force until the spoon bends, then it is not it. Besides, if you are doing it correctly, the spoon is heated.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Power of Numbers 3

This is an unusual and interesting Life Path. Read till the end and find out who this person is.
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Root Number:
Root 5 people are a very strong character and a born leader (even stronger than Root 1) and therefore holds high positions in his life/career. This person has to be very careful because ‘5’ is in the centre of ‘1’ and ‘9’, so he can turn to either extreme of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. He is very fussy and like to control. He can adapt easily (flexible) and therefore can also be dangerous. He has strong instinct of things. He is very hardworking and will achieve success in later part in life. A realistic and firm (very grounded) person (not a dreamer).
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The downside of this person is that he is stubborn and hard-headed. He should relax and not pick on small issues. If he relaxes on his principles and become less stubborn, he will be respected by all. ‘5’ is also a sense of direction.
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Key Character:
This is a very lucky individual.
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Life Path of this person:
Spends money on himself or in entertaining his friends and is spendthrift. Because of this, he attracts backstabbers.
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He works alone to achieve wealth, resulting in many supporters/customers/network, which in turn gives him more wealth.
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A very lucky individual that has many supporters, many of them women; able to sail through difficult times.
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His plans are always under pressure, and he ends up being aggressive.
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Extremely emotional, quick tempered, very aggressive and very impatient. Money comes very fast and go very fast.
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He would spend money on entertaining influential people that will benefit him.
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His friends/supporters would backstab him or give him obstacles.
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Gets agitated very easily, as he meet obstacles; emotional and impatient.
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Other points:
1. He is prone to divorce.
2. He is very systematic when he does things.
3. He has many domestic issues.
4. Subconsciously, he is very stressed.
5. He has a very very high sex drive.
6. He has a split personality. ie. You think you know him well, yet you don't really.
7. A very charming personality.
8. When driven to a corner, he can have suicidal tendencies.
9. He is prone to head injuries.
10. He attracts women.
11. Money gotten by aggressiveness. He got affairs.
12. He talks a lot in the night. eg. In the pub and/or via the Internet and SMSes.
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This person is none other than Jack Neo, a famous and successful Singaporean movie director and comedian, now embroiled in a highly publicised scandal with his mistress. This post is not to discredit Jack, but merely to demonstrate the accuracy of "Power of Numbers" and how we can use it to understand ourselves.
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I think this reading describes Jack quite well. Incidentally, I was shared the same office with Jack during my National Service days, so I know a little bit about his off-stage behaviour. At that time, he was not a celebrity yet.
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I wish Jack and his family well. As for all the press and girls involved, it is time to leave the man and his family alone. People will forgive and forget, and time will heal.
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There is a very good article in the Singapore Today newspaper, entitled, "WHY JACK NEO SHOULD NOT APOLOGISE TO ALL OF US". To read it, click here.
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If you take away the sex and the money, none of these would have happened. No scandal, no apologies and the press won't have their news. What impresses me is the couple's continued love for each other and their family. That is something many struggling marriages may like to take a leaf from. In the end, love conquers all.
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It really does sound like another Jack Neo script for a movie, most of them centre on romance and family.
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As for me, I'll continue to watch your movies Jack. You have my support.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Re-inventing Universities in China


A friend of mine forwarded me this CCTV video (scroll down) about the re-inventing of universities in China and discussion with the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University.
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Here are my observations:
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1. That the Vice Chancellor reiterated that students do not only learn from teachers, but from everyone they interact with in their life, including other students. That is mentioned by Alvin Toffler in his book "Revolutionary Wealth"

2. That the Vice Chancellor is creating an environment for change (very much what 'Bucky' Buckminster Fuller) such that students and staff from different disciplines can come together and interact, creating a multi-disciplinary approach to studying. However, note that the university still divide studies into different disciplines, instead of approaching them from generalised principles.

3. That the University is looking at an assessment of academic results as entry into the university, such that it is fairer to candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds and rural regions. In the context of Singapore, should this mean that if we cast our university admission nets further to the rural folks in ASEAN, will we give scholarships to students from the minority tribes in Borneo, Sulawesi and Papua, though they do not have the sparkling A1s that scholars ought to have? Also, should these rural students having learned to be a brilliant scholar in a field that has little application to their hometowns, such as Computer Scientist, mean that they are better off remaining as the university professors or executive jobs in Singapore?

4. About Fudan University's curriculum of specialising their students only in the fourth year of their study. Perhaps they are coming closer to the realisation that there isn't really such a thing as a 'specialist', in that the universe operates on generalised principles. A friend of mine used to tell me that specialisation is only for insects.

5. I am impressed with the young CEO's quest to live his dream and also his sharp analytical mind towards capturing customer requirements and serving his clients. However, he may be hard pressed to enter any of the prestigious universities in China or abroad. The Vice Chancellor has even turned down the (hypothetical) suggestion to write a letter supporting the CEO's application into university should that be required one day. This is clear evidence that education systems today are still unable to pick up individual talents and doing them justice in terms of academic grades. Toffler mentioned about the need to treat students as individuals in Third Wave education, but we are still far from this ideal today.

6. About the lady who returned to study in university despite her good career at that time and came to graduate. Though she said that it is her dream to complete her education in a university, I suspect it also had a lot to do with the Chinese cultural perception of holding a piece of qualification in order to progress in her career and for earning respect in society. This is dangerous if universities continue to lag behind in pedaegogy, updated knowledge and teaching medium. Bucky said that the future universities are likened to be production houses of documentary movies. This is already happening in Youtube, but hardly anyone would call it a university.

7. That the Vice Chancellor mentioned about the need for universities to return to their fundamentals to explore the 'truth' of everything, whatever in costs are. This is ideal, but how are you going to do this in a dictatorship? I agree that true education comes only when we have enough mental space and physical space. That will lead to an open society and critical thinking, as advocated by author and financial market guru George Soros, that is, when dogmas will have lived its natural life and died.
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The video demonstrates the contrasting perception and concepts of what education is, between Eastern and Western civilisation. A rare treat. It also shows that China is progressing at astonishing pace and surprising openness.


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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Everything is OK


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Choose what you like from this video, you don't have to believe that 'everything is ok'.
What you did not choose probably doesn't feel ok with you, but can be ok to others.
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Love and Light!
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